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Lessons from helping tomorrow's innovators at the 2019 Young Innovators Awards

If Greta Thunberg is anything to go by, the next generation of innovators will solve some of the world's most pressing problems. Experience consultant and former general manager of digital at Cucumber Clare Swallow says based off her experience judging the Young Innovator Awards in the Bay of Plenty, there is so much potential yet. She shares some key learnings from the event, and why the education system needs an overhaul. 

Over the last few months, I have had the privilege of being involved in this year's Young Innovator Awards held in Tauranga. This project is designed to create tomorrow's innovators and rest assured if the finalists are anything to go by, our future is in pretty extraordinary hands!

Having put the yellow carpet away for another year I've been reflecting on the lessons from this experience and what our young people can teach us, so here they are...

  1. Students are not (yet) shackled by the constraints of reality. Their exploration of the obscure, crazy, disconnected and head-slappingly simple solutions (that us slightly older folk may write off as never going to happen) meant they found new ways to solve real challenges. Somewhere along the way from school into the corporate world we seem to lose some of this unconstrained experimentation. For the sake of our businesses this needs to change.
  2. Young people care about big problems. While reviewing some of the entries I was blown away that students as young as 10 were tackling youth mental health, waste, water, family violence, sleep, food etc. They may be young but they care about the future of our communities, our businesses and our planet. They have a voice and we should be listening. 
  3. In order to ensure students learn the skills they will need to be successful once they leave school – we need to relook at the education system in general. YIA exists because of a group of passionate locals and a supportive EDA who understand the importance of problem-solving, sustainability, creativity, innovation and storytelling. Some of these skills don't fit nicely into the square box curriculum as it currently stands hence the original team who developed YIA nine years ago created something that sat outside of the school system. Having hired people in the past these skills are as important (and in some cases, more important) as talent in a particular discipline. I am by no means an expert in this subject but how and what we teach needs to change!

Congratulations to all the entrants, winners or not. We look forward to seeing how you change the world!

This story was originally published on LinkedIn

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